Monday, April 27, 2009

8 Hot Tips on Getting the Most Out of Webinars, Podcasts, and Teleseminars

Last week, I treated myself to 3 excellent webinars. While the content itself is not the focus of this blog post, I will give the sponsoring organizations a thumbs up here since they were all very good, and I will be blogging for the rest of the week on the tips I learned. The webinars were:

I devised some handy tips that I hadn't seen anywhere else for getting the most out of these and future webinars and teleseminars:

  1. Keep notes in a dedicated folder or notebook. If you are taking notes by hand, keep a dedicated notebook for all your webinars, teleseminars, etc., so they are in one handy place. It is annoying to have to sort through multiple notebooks, and if your notes aren't accessible, you'll never use them. If you are taking notes on your computer, set up a folder on your desktop and keep a separate file name with the name of the seminar for each Word document, so you can easily organize notes.
  2. Keep relevant sign-in instructions handy. Make sure to keep all relevant information, such as the date and time of the webinar, speakers and panelists, instructions for signing in, etc. If the webinar is a few days away, highlight it in your e-mail so you have the info handy, and make a note in your calendar as to the date and time so you'll be sure you remember. Some calendars such as Google offer the option of e-mail reminders set to your preferences, and I find these very useful. If the webinar is within the next day or two, keep a tab open in your browser and this should serve as a reminder. Although many webinars offer downloads of the event later, there are incentives to joining on live. In many cases, the speaker will offer goodies and access to great resources for live participants only.
  3. Formulate questions ahead of time. Be ready with questions! You're probably registering for the webinar because you have at least a few questions about the topic. Formulate your questions ahead of time, so you'll be ready to speak up on a phone teleseminar, or post them in a webinar using the sidebar that typically appears on the screen. You'll stand out among other listeners and participants, and get a chance to interact with the moderator and/or speaker.
  4. Read up on speakers. Webinar speakers are great resources as well as possible links to other clients and gigs. Learn as much as you can about their backgrounds, review their web links, follow them on Twitter, and subscribe to their blog posts. Also, make sure and download any goodies they have available, such as videos, e-books, white papers, etc. That way, you'll have some great resources and you can impress them with your knowledge of their publications.
  5. Pay attention to questions, and jot them down. I found it very interesting during my last webinar, that many of the questions that popped up on the "chat" window were very relevant and timely. The speaker would never have a chance to address them all, since they only have an hour at the most on a topic. So this is your chance to get some great material for you blogs, newsletters, e-books, and white papers. You know there is a demand and an interest because the audience is right there asking the questions.
  6. Watch for downloads and attachments. Typically, the webinar organizer will e-mail PDFs of the slide presentation that was used. Make a folder for these as well and hold onto them. You can use them to supplement your resource library, and make them available as downloads for your audience - just be sure you credit the company name and provide the context. You can also use them to add substance to your blogs and e-mail campaigns.
  7. Thank the speakers and/or moderators. It's good etiquette to thank the speakers and let them know the main points you got out of the webinar. It lets them know their audience was involved and informed. Organizers may also send surveys out to find out how valued the session was, and it's good form to fill them out. Thanking the speakers directly also lets them view your relevant web links and profiles, and your exciting Twitter profile as well. If you think the speakers are good resources for you down the line, ask them if they want to subscribe to your blogs or e-news. It's a good way to stay in touch without being pushy. Also, offer them a free testimonial. Companies can always use great comments, and it gives you added exposure on other web sites.
  8. Use Webinar topic to generate project folders. If a topic is on a new area, such as a new technology, web site, or application, and you feel you may be working with these tools in the future, make a new folder to keep on your desktop, or bookmark, with the name the new topic, and insert any relevant into the folder as it comes in, either through e-mail, blog posts, etc. That way you'll have everything organized. For example, if you are planning to write an e-book, save everything relevant to that topic, including social media links, so it is handy and waiting for you once you're getting started. You can use the front of your project folder to note any questions on the project you might have, resources, and a schedule and timeline for yourself and those involved.
Do you have any other helpful tips for getting the most of your webinars? Send them to me here!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Social Media Marketing: Time Trap or Opportunity Magnet? New Study Reveals the Answers

Report Exposes Best Tools and Benefits of
Social Media Marketing

A surprising 64 percent of marketers are spending five or more hours weekly using social media sites like Twitter, found the just-released Social Media Marketing Industry Report, sponsored by Social Media Success Summit

"Social media marketing is an engagement with online communities to generate exposure, opportunity and sales," says report author Michael A. Stelzner, founder of WhitePaperSource, "and the real shocker is that experienced folks are investing more than 20 hours each week with social media."

Businesses of all sizes are leaping into the social media pool—and many are well-known brands. Computer giant Dell recently reported a million dollars in sales by issuing coupons on Twitter. Even Ford is using social media to interact directly with its customers.

"Social media has helped Ford quickly achieve its goal of being a top social brand and has broken down the more conservative communications processes that were in place," said Scott Monty, head of social media for Ford.

However, for most marketing pros, social media marketing is a fresh new phenomenon—and it's not just for the young professional. Among the 880 marketers surveyed, 72 percent have been at it for only a few months, and the median age was 40 to 49.

"This is a story nobody else is telling," explains Stelzner. "Most marketers know the future is social media, but they aren’t sure how their competitors are playing the game."

The big questions marketers most want answered about social media are also revealed in the report. Knowing where to start and if there is real money to be made were among the top questions pros want answered.

The leading benefits experienced by social media marketers included:

#1: Generated exposure for the business (81%)
#2: Increased traffic and subscribers (61%)
#3: Established new business partnerships (56%)

The report's sponsor, Social Media Success Summit 2009, promises to provide answers to many of the lingering social media questions marketers face. A complimentary class on social media is available for immediate download here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gmail Labs Offers Diverse New Features

I've been experimenting this week with several of the new features offered in Gmail Labs, and found many of them useful and fairly easy to use. Here's a quick overview, courtesy of Mashable. My personal take is that the Insert Image feature is welcome and long overdue, except, why not make it part of the signature template, instead of having to call in a new image on each e-mail? This would enable you to upload your logo or head shot in the "Settings" mode and have it be a permanent part of your signature tag. Google should work on developing this. Also, I'm pleased they added a pop up task bar on their calendar function. I noticed in using the calendar that there was no way to efficient list to do tasks, or mark them completed, and I also saw that there were substantial complaints online about this. I found having the task bar handy was efficient, and easy then keeping a handwritten list. Good luck trying these out!

1. Offline: This allows you to view your messages anywhere, even if you don’t have wifi.

2. Tasks: Tasks takes your to-do list and makes it part of Gmail. Tasks makes it easy to add items to your to-do list, even allowing you to take emails and turn them into tasks.

3. Superstars: This feature helps you organize your folders with different star icons. Be sure to determine what each icon means to you.

4. Mouse Gestures: Mouse Gestures allows you to scroll through your emails without clicking on multiple links or touching your keyboard. Swipe your mouse right with the right click held down to read your next email or go back to the inbox by swiping down.

5. Email Addict: On Gmail too much? Activate this and a link will appear at the top of the page, allowing you to take a 15 minute break. Great for when you have a lapse of self-control.

6. Navbar drag and drop: Navbar drag and drop makes it easy to organize your Gmail screen by dragging and dropping the items in the menus in the order that you want.

7. Multiple Inboxes: If you’re a Gmail power user, like most of us at Mashable, you have a lot of different mail sources and lots of labels. See more information at once by activating Multiple Inboxes. Note: this creates new inboxes for labels, not inboxes for secondary Gmail accounts.

8. Inserting Images: The newest Gmail Labs feature is a useful one that makes sending images a lot easier.

9. Create a Document: Turn any email into a Google doc with this useful little Gmail Labs feature.

10. Google Calendar gadget: If you’re a regular user of Google Calendar, activate it to link your Gmail to your Google Calendar.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is There an "Aha!" Moment in Your Newsletter?

Many of us send and receive e-newsletters all the time. On the receiving end, we want to read useful information relevant to our business or personal lives, that helps us be more efficient, save time, save money, teaches us something new, etc. Since our in boxes are bombarded daily with more newsletters then we will ever want, and everyone else is in the same boat, we know as publishers that we need to do something special to stand out. Actually, more then something special, probably at least 3 something specials, if we don't want to be deleted or ignored.

And then there is always that mysterious something, that secret sauce that keeps readers paying attention to you, although they may not know why. I call it the "Forest Gump" factor. Remember when, in the middle of the movie, Tom Hanks just starts running and running, and isn't sure why? He attracts crowds in the millions, without really trying, just doing what seems right. That's kind of where you want to go.

1. Have your target audience in mind when creating your newsletter.
Readers of your newsletter may or may not become actual clients themselves, but they are still important as subscribers, since they can forward your newsletter, save it for the future, bookmark it, and refer to the links you include with it. Your target audience is ideally your ideal client - someone who knows and needs your services, and appreciates that you are providing something useful and important.

2. Include at least 1-2 really important pieces of information relevant to your readers and their businesses, in each issue.
You do not need to overwrite your newsletter, or include everything you learned in the last 3 years. Some of the newsletters I receive are so long, I cannot see myself ever finishing them, so they end up right where the sender doesn't want the Trash! So, offer handy take-aways in an easy to read manner (bullets, pullouts, boxes, are all good) and your readers will remember you. If you make them say "aha," for one moment, you have done your job. Note: with the constant proliferation of news and social networks, you really need to stay on top of your game in terms of new technology, resources, etc., so you can be at the leading edge of the information curve. When you know how to do something they don't, it's a good sign that you are in the ballpark. I know that I changed drastically the way I published my newsletter, and now make it much more about resources I can offer, rather then an update on my activities, although this is important too, and can be done through links.

3. Don't be afraid to be yourself.
If you are offering a service, your personality becomes a key part of your business. Use online tools such as videos, podcasts, and of course, your writing, to communicate more about who you are. All these tools can add dimension to you online persona. I once saw an episode on the Food Network, where Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) said that she would never hire anyone she wouldn't want to have over for dinner. I agree, and would like to be both the host and the guest, in the client/provider relationship.

Are you publishing your next newsletter soon? Keep these tips in mind, and if you don't know who your ideal client really is, think about it for a while. What else do they read? (besides your great newsletter, of course). What are their hobbies? What do they need to do faster and more easily? What frustrates or confuses them? Amuses them and makes them laugh? How can you help?

Following are companies that offer some great e-newsletters. I list them here because I really like the content, or the way they are organized, and I look forward to receiving them. Comment and let me know your favorites, and why.

Earthbound Farm Organics
Stonyfield Farms (Mooseletter)
Powell's Books
Santa Monica Eco Gift Festival

Monday, April 13, 2009

10 Tips for Choosing Followers on Twitter

If You Follow, Will They Come? Maybe...

I recently completed a Twitter search project for a client, who wanted me to get her a great group to follow. The thinking was that in turn, those seeing that you are following them will then follow you. This does not always work, but I found that about one-third of those I chose to follow, followed back. In choosing those to follow, I developed several key criteria that will prove useful in new searches and other research. I also learned a few other things: Tweedeck is a great program, but a real memory guzzler. I ended up not using it because it was using up my megabytes faster then you could say "Twitter!"; Applications like "Mr. Tweet," were not so great. They are supposed to be auto programs for finding you relevant followers on a search, but I found the search outcomes repeatedly not relevant, so I discontinued it. Tweelater was a helpful program, I like being able to set up advance tweets, and auto responses to new followers. Some people hate getting these, but I don't mind them.

10 Tips

1. Twitter profiles should have a photo or professional looking image or graphic.

A company logo is OK, but not as compelling as a photo. Many people seem to use their childhood photos, cartoons, or "joke" images. I did not find this appealing during the search, as it made me feel like I wasn't getting a sense of the real person, which is very important online.

2. Their profile must include a link to their website.
If there is no web site link, you really don't know who you are following and have no basis to make a decision to follow or not.

3. They should have interesting tweets.
I found during the search it was worth taking the time to scroll through the tweets, even for just 1-2 screens, as this provides insight into their communication style and what interests them, even with the 140 character limit. Someone may seem interesting, but if their tweets aren't valuable, they probably aren't worth following. A sign that they are tweeting with others is also important.

4. Must have bio.
You can easily decide someone's relevance even with a glimpse of their bio (it is usually cut off due to the screen.) Their bio also indicates how serious they are about their business. If someone seems of interest, but their bio includes nothing about their field, chances are they don't see themselves as serious in this area.

5. Has a blog that you enjoy.
If you already subscribe to someone's blog and like it, chances are you will want to follow them on Twitter as well, particularly if their blog is automatically feeding into Twitter. I have found that the best Twitterers, though, don't rely just on their blog feeds, but also make interesting tweets in between as well.

6. Retweeters are Good.

Check for those who retreet fairly often. That's a good sign that they are paying attention to and reposting what others are saying online, and may do the same for you. It also shows that they are interested in people other than themselves and will not be self-promoting on a constant basis.

7. Beware of Self-Promoters.
If it looks like someone's tweets are consistently all about them and their products, they are probably not going to be a great resource and I would stay away. This is also a sign that they do not "get" what social media is all about.

8. Peer Recommended.
If someone I know and trust suggest I follow someone, it's a good sign that I probably should. This serves as a mini-screening, so to speak.

9. High Number of Followers.

I found in my experience that those with a high number of followers were indeed worth following, although this may not always be the case, as I have heard anecdotes of people getting followers through questionable methods. When in doubt, check the bio, web link, and tweets, and make sure this person is right for you.

10. Be Choosy, and Aim for Relationships Rather Than Transactions

It doesn't pay to have followers who are going to get lost in the Twitter frenzy and not pay attention to you. Better to have a smaller group of potential stakeholders who are genuinely interested in being future customers, exchanging information, and providing important contacts.

Hope you find these tips useful, and please comment if you have any of your own!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Look at Yola from Web 2.0 Expo

Despite talk of a "down attendance" at this year's web 2.o conference, the exhibit hall on April 1 was bustling with vendors and visitors, and it certainly seemed to this observer that a good time was had by all. That being said, I'm highlighting 3 unique start-ups that caught my interest, starting with Yola, in this post.

Yola (formerly SynthaSite)
I was shown a quick demo of this design your own web site program, which recently relaunched from another brand, SynthaSite. I am a perfect candidate for this software, as I am at a stage where I am trying to migrate my blog from Blogger (no offense, Google) and my site from Freewebs, a fairly decent auto editor program, into one combined nifty site. I was really excited about this program, since they had cool t-shirts, and the home page looked fairly easy, and there was a lot of buzz, including some recent heavy duty funding to the tune of 20 million dollars. I just spent about 40 minutes reviewing the basic features, and did go through the Basic tutorial. Here's my take:

The choice of templates is pretty good (38), although the Preview mode is a little awkward. You can't see the thumbnails unless you click on a design and there is a delay, so I found this a bit inefficient. I tried 3 different templates, typing in the name of my company, and the name got cut off each time and I couldn't figure out how to adjust the type to fit the space. I did, however, get a message that the banner size needed to be changed, with specific dimensions coming up, but it was confusing as to what that had to do with the type. The banner seemed to be referring to some other image that wasn't there. I tried uploading my butterfly logo, which ended up distorted, so I changed the dimensions and was rerouted directly to Picnik. So, the image worked better but was still cut off. Time to move on.

How much do I love widgets? Very very much. They're spunky. They're cool. But here? Not so much. First, I tried the Skype widget. I typed in my Skype ID thinking all would be fine, but when I got the image, it said I was "offline," even though I always have Skype open on my desktop so I can, you know, get phone calls. Then I tried clicking on it to test call myself, and I got a window that said I had to download some software, and then nothing at all happened and no phone call. Hmm. Next, I tried the YouTube widget thinking I could niftily get my channel to show up. So, I got the You Tube home page, and when I copied and pasted the URL for my channel, nothing happened??? A blank screen. Very strange. Time to move on.

Search Engine Optimization?
I asked about this at the booth and the woman helping me was not sure about this. I found this a bit odd. I also checked on the home page, and nothing. Then I typed SEO on the Help menu and got nothing. Then, I spelled it out and got several results, mostly having to do with Google Analytics and some tips. Not bad, but what I really wanted to know was, how is the architecture of this software more optimized than any other, particularly in light of Word Press?

Some Other Awkward Moments

File Uploads:
I was able to easily upload one of my recent articles with no problem. However, I could not easily discern how to add a caption. When I clicked on the Text function and dragged the box over to the area I wanted to type in, it defaulted to the area below the photo instead. When I typed "captions" in the help menu, I only got a link to Picasa web albums and slide shows. Also, when I wanted to edit the photo and move it to the left, there were 2 edit choices, one regular edit and one for Picnik. I chose regular edit and still got the Picnik window.

Web Page vs. Blog: I was surprised to have to choose between the 2 when first creating my page, given that the trend these days is toward the combined interface and in my case, that was my reason for wanting a new program to begin with.

As you can see, results on this software were very mixed. In the interest of fairness, I will give it another shot, however, being that the folks I met seemed to be trying hard and there were a lot of positive user testimonials. But I feel somewhat taxed from not getting what I wanted out of these features. It's not a good feeling to wonder if you might get more out of the t-shirt than the program.

Anyone else tried it?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Why I Want to Have Lunch with John Maeda

Well, OK, maybe dinner. Or lunch. Or even a package of M&M's from the La Guardia airport vending machine. (See video to get this.) I would want to talk about leadership, and simplicity, and blogs, and a whole lot more, as I came away rather awed during his keynote presentation at last week's web 2.0 conference. It wasn't just because he was a smooth and articulate speaker, or that he understood the important link between technology and humanity, or that he had clever witticisms (RISD stands for "Reason I'm Sleep Deprived"), or that he showed us his really cool sculpture of a fish using Nanos, or that he has a blog that is more of a community blog than his blog, or that he has an "anonymous day" in which the blog is self-managed, or that he drew a distinction between the creative leader and the traditional leader that made me do a mental doubletake. As in, yes, he gets it. I get it. We all need to get this. Here is a brief snapshot:

Traditional Leader:
Loves to Avoid Mistakes
Thinks Hierarchically
Yes or No

Creative Leader:
Learn from Mistakes

Other interesting factoids: His path started at a Seattle tofu factory. Was associate director of MIT Media Lab. Named one of Esquire magazine's 75 most important people of 21st century.

In the interest of simplicity, I'll leave it at that. And John, if you're ever at La Guardia again, the Snickers bars are on me. We can call it lunch.

Links of Interest:
Interesting Commentary on "Laws of Simplicity"
RISD blog
Designs for iGoogle

Friday, April 03, 2009

Tweet You Later - A Review of 3 Top Twitter Apps

I've been experimenting a lot with several Twitter applications over the last 2 weeks, mostly out of my own interest in learning, and also because I was involved in my first official Twitter research project for a software tester. Out of all the programs I tried, here are the highlights and my official take on some of these programs:

This is a great program, as it enable you to set up groups, columns, filters, and many ways in which to view your followers. I found, however, that if you are doing a traditional search and looking for followers, it pretty much worked the same as the raw search you get in plain old Twitter, and I ended up doing this...why? Because Tweetdeck is a huge memory guzzler, and if you're like me and don't have a lot of megabytes to throw around, you'll want to think twice about running this program. I read some blog posts about this and apparently I'm not the only user who has noticed this problem. Also, there is an annoying notification "bell" that sent my blood pressure rising every time someone in my Twitter group posted a tweet. I was able to disconnect this in the settings function, thank goodness.

This application is a clear winner, for several reasons. It has a lot of functionality, is easy to use, and is free, although there is an upgraded version you can pay for that has added bells and whistles. As for the free stuff:
*you can add an automated message to your new followers...didn't you always wonder how people did that?
*set up automated searched using key words and phrases that go right into your inbox
*automate that those who follow you, you will follow
*schedule tweets in advance so you can go off to the Caribbean while your Twitter group thinks you're slaving away! (note, I didn't think I would use this feature as I have my blog feed into twitter automatically, but I still found there were topics I wanted to tweet about separately anyway....)

If anyone is using the Professional version of this program and has a comment on how they like it, I'd love to hear about it.

Just Tweet It
I was excited about this program when I first logged in and saw what it had to offer, namely a long list of directories which could post a mini ad for your business, web site, or blog, in whatever category fit best, or in multiple categories, kind of like a yellow pages. While I liked the way the display ads were set up and saw the logic behind it, and I liked that each time someone posted a new ad you got a note in your in box, it does not seem to effective in the long haul. From a marketing stanpoint, one would have to scroll through the directories, choose profiles of those that look like potential clients or stakeholders, and then contact them individually. A fair amount of work, when you could just tweet them to begin with.

I'll be continuing my search for the ultimate Twitter application. In the meantime, send me your picks and I'll post them here. Happy Tweeting!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

News! I'm the New Green Biz Columnist

Good news! I applied and was selected to be the new San Jose Green Business columnist for the SF I'm excited. Here is a link to my first column that posted this week. If you have any story ideas or newsworthy topics you think I should cover, please leave me a comment. I can write up green news events, interviews, new businesses, resources, tips, special programs, and other newsworthy topics. See you online!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Writing White Papers by Michael Stelzner - Sample Chapter

Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged
I've been a fan of white paper guru Michael Stelzner for several years now, having learned about him when I had to write my first white paper for a client 2 years ago, which was featured on a design firm web site that was changing its audience to reach the luxury market. It was a great success.

My online research took me to his book, "Writing White Papers..." and I have to say the book really helped me get organized, and I keep it handy today as a great resource. Michael is always at the cutting edge of new technology and has very helpful monthly newsletters. Unlike many social media marketers out there, he gets right to the point and is very succinct and easy to read. No scrolling copy that goes on forever and makes you wish you never logged on!

View the links in this post to view a video by Michael and also download a free chapter. You can also click on the book above to order it.

Here are some interesting factoids:

InformationWeek recently released a report titled, “Tech Marketing: Best Practices Research Series: White Papers: How to Maximize the Use of White Papers in Your B2B Marketing and Sales Process.” Yes, that is a mouthful, but so is the report. It full of great facts about the marketing power of white papers.

  • Viral nature: 93% of buyers pass‐along up to half of the white papers they read/download
  • What folks do AFTER reading: The first thing readers do is go to a search engine for more information (75.8%)
  • Can you trust them?: Only 40.7% if all white papers are deemed as trustworthy
  • How papers impact sales decisions: The role white papers play in the purchasing decision:
    • General education (76.3%)
    • Investigate technology in more detail (73.8%)
    • Learn about a vendor’s solution (68%)
  • Best white papers are here: Where do readers find the best white papers:
    • Vendor websites (50.8%)
    • Professional organization (43.4%)
    • Research firms (38%)
    • B2B sites and libraries (32.8%)
  • Suggested content: The best white papers should have:
    • A tight, to-the-point abstract (80%)
    • Minimal marketing (78.6%)
    • Use/Case studies (75.6%)
  • Other stuff: The perception of white paper content improves based on the reputation of the media source, so reported 78.9% AND if the vendor is known, 68% will trust the content, regardless if it is posted on a trusted media source